Archive for April, 2012

Beware the Spring

April 8, 2012
(Reprinted from the Willamette Writers newsletter, March 2011.) 
Do not go gentle into the light. Before you celebrate the rising thermometer, think on this: Winter is your friend. Sunshine only tempts you to put on shorts, wash the car, and do the weeding. Some part of you might be longing for fair weather, but the Dark Soul of the winter is the writer’s den. Nothing about bad weather is truly a hindrance to the novelist. A laptop warms the knees better than even the plumpest cat. When the chill winds blow and you fold into yourself to hibernate, that’s when the storyteller brain wakes up.  It’s never too cold to write.
Sure, the spring child frolics, innocent, free, picking  tight buds that have never seen a bee and starting stories before they’ve had time to bloom in the brain. She dreams great scenes, only to wake with the sun in her eyes, the idea melted away before her first bite of breakfast.
The summer child lounges in a hammock, tan and barefoot, believing that nothing will ever be as beautiful as the novel she is planning in her head. She thinks that time is infinite. The ambrosia is on tap. She gives away her best lines by leaking them to comrades in spontaneous fits of mutual admiration.
The autumn child, distracted and hesitant, rakes up leaves while the wind is blowing. She keeps re-carding stories then losing the cards. She thinks she should’ve gotten more done in the summer and dreads the shorter days to come. She feels good about blaming herself and on Halloween night she gets high on fun-sized Snickers only to find that by morning her brilliant idea for a new horror story is nothing more than an illegible scrawl on the back of an orange and black napkin.
But we are winter people.
We gaze into the brooding skies of December and wonder what if the sun never comes back? This tension fuels the gravity of the seasons and calls back the light. Somebody has to watch the moon and keep the stars in check. It’s frost on the window that moves the pen to scratch up a spark on the parchment. Something in our ancestral DNA remembers dipping the quill by candle light and keeping a vigil on the longest night of the year.
You know you are a winter child – that stone in your heart that lifts like a feather when you find the right words, it’s what makes us kin. We love the other seasons, of course. But we know where we’re from. We recognize each other across crowded rooms. You, brothers and sisters, I will find browsing in Powell’s on a warm, wet April afternoon or leaving the library with a book tucked under your arm on some brilliant, heady August morning, or laughing with a glass of wine in your hand at some glowing Octoberfest book event . . . but I know you.  Passionate, haunted. I see the December in your eyes.
Perhaps we must pass through all the seasons as stages in our formation as writers. When I was young, a spring chick, I would follow the piper of one story, then flit off to follow another in giddy WAD (writer attention deficit) inspiration. I’d write a hundred pages of plans for multiple sequels to a novel of which I had only completed one chapter. I’d carry that manuscript around with me in a battered box tied with a green ribbon. I wanted to be a novelist when I grew up.
As a child of summer I was held back by the idea that my actual writing might not live up to the lush genius I could imagine. In a Coleridge-esque cloud of delirium I’d tuck my work under a bushel. I’d write a manuscript every year but never bother to rewrite. And a year seemed like a very long time.
I suppose now I am in the third quarter of my life. My autumn. I feel bad when a day goes by and I have not written. Not sure how grown up I am, but I am a novelist. I am easily distracted and not just by motherhood. The revision process seems, in an odd way, more important than the creation process. Time flies and gets away from me. A year is like nothing.
But my winter is approaching. That may sound sad, but it’s not – my future is brimming with hope and possibility. I will learn to write after my son goes to bed.  Bring on the longer nights, I say!  No time will be wasted — no day without new pages. When I think of all the novels I still have to write, I will be not afraid. I have miles to go before I sleep but they are Dickensian, Narnian, Christmasy miles. Bless us, every one, and God save the winter.

April Give-Away!

April 2, 2012

The winner of the March Give-Away was Andrea of North Kansas City, Mo. And the April Give-Away will be a surprise grab bag of five (previously read) books that I love. So if you read a lot and like surprises, send your name and physical address to me via the “Email Laura Whitcomb” link on my website.

And now, in a shameless act, I post a picture of my two-year-old son in Adventureland, Disneyland.   =)